NewsImportant Update: Certain Visa Categories Exempt from New UK Dependent Visa Rules...

Important Update: Certain Visa Categories Exempt from New UK Dependent Visa Rules from March 11, 2024

From 11th March 2024, major changes are coming to the UK’s immigration system that will significantly impact certain visa categories. The government has announced that from this date, newly arriving care workers and senior care workers will no longer be permitted to bring dependents (partners and children) with them to the UK.

Additionally, only care providers registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England will be eligible to sponsor these workers. These new rules, part of the government’s plan to reduce net migration, represent a tightening of the Health and Care Worker visa route.

However, it’s important to note that the changes specifically target just two occupation codes – 6145 (care workers) and 6146 (senior care workers). Those arriving on other eligible Health and Care visa occupations will still be able to bring dependents.

Key Changes From 11th March 2024

The two key changes being introduced on 11th March 2024 are:

  1. No Dependents for Care Workers and Senior Care Workers

Care workers (SOC 6145) and senior care workers (SOC 6146) who apply for a Health and Care visa on or after 11th March 2024 will not be permitted to bring dependents (partners and children) with them to the UK. This applies to both entry clearance and leave to remain applications.

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However, this new restriction does not apply to other eligible occupations under the Health and Care visa route, such as nurses, medical practitioners, psychologists, and various therapy professionals.

  1. CQC Registration Requirement for Sponsors in England

From 11th March, care providers in England will only be permitted to sponsor workers in the 6145 and 6146 occupation codes if they are undertaking activities regulated by the CQC.

This means care homes, home care agencies, and other care providers without CQC registration will be unable to sponsor new care workers or senior care workers from this date. Again, this requirement is specific to the 6145 and 6146 codes only. Sponsors for other Health and Care visa occupations are unaffected.

Transitional Arrangements

The Home Office has confirmed some transitional provisions for those already on the Health and Care visa route in the 6145 and 6146 occupation codes:

  • Workers who applied before 11th March 2024 will still be able to extend their visa with the same sponsor and settle in the UK, even if the sponsor is not CQC registered.
  • They will also be permitted to be accompanied or joined by dependents, even when changing to a new CQC-registered sponsor.

So the new rules will only apply to fresh applications from 11th March onwards. Those already in the system can follow the previous regulations until they obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Other Immigration Changes in 2024

While the dependent visa changes for care workers have garnered significant attention, they are just one part of a broader package of reforms aimed at reducing net migration to the UK. Some of the other key immigration changes being implemented in 2024 include:

Skilled Worker Minimum Salary Increase

From 4th April 2024, the general minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker visa route will increase by a staggering 48% – from £26,200 to £38,700 per year.

However, Health and Care visa workers will be exempt from this rise, as will certain other occupations like teachers on national pay scales.

New Immigration Salary List

On 14th March 2024, the current Shortage Occupation List will be replaced with a new ‘Immigration Salary List’. This new list, recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), will remove the previous 20% discount applied to shortage occupations when calculating minimum salaries.

Increased Family Visa Income Requirement

The minimum income threshold for partners applying for a family visa is also being raised in stages:

  • From 11th April 2024, it will increase from £18,600 to £29,000
  • Further rises to around £34,500 and then £38,700 are expected later in 2024/early 2025

Those already on the family visa route before the increases will continue to be assessed on the previous lower income levels.

Review of Graduate Visa Route

The MAC has also been commissioned to review the Graduate visa route, which allows international students to remain and work in the UK for two years after completing their degree. Their findings are expected in late 2024.

Impacts Across Different Sectors

The range of changes being introduced will have varying impacts across different sectors that rely on overseas labour:

Health and Social Care

The inability for newly arriving care workers and senior carers to bring dependents is likely to make recruitment for these roles even more challenging for an already struggling sector.

However, the exemption from the £38,700 minimum salary threshold will help the NHS and care providers continue attracting nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Hospitality and Retail

Employers in sectors like hospitality, retail, and food services are expected to be heavily impacted by the rise in the general Skilled Worker minimum salary to £38,700. Many roles that currently qualify for a visa may no longer meet the new salary requirements, restricting overseas hiring channels.

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While education occupations like teachers on national pay scales are exempt from the £38,700 threshold, the sector still faces challenges due to the removal of the 20% shortage occupation discount when the new Immigration Salary List takes effect.

Other Skilled Worker Roles

IT professionals, engineers, analysts and various other skilled occupations outside of shortage/immigration salary lists will need to ensure roles meet the new £38,700 minimum to sponsor overseas workers from April 2024 onwards. Employers across sectors are being advised to assess their workforce planning and ensure any required visa applications are submitted before the April changes to avoid missing out on potential overseas hires.

Advice for Individuals and Businesses

With so many moving parts, the raft of immigration changes in 2024 is complex to navigate. Here are some key pieces of advice:

For Visa Applicants

  • Care workers (6145) and senior care workers (6146) looking to apply for a visa from 11th March should do so as soon as possible if wanting to bring dependents.
  • Anyone looking to switch to a Skilled Worker visa or extend their current one should initiate their application before 4th April to avoid the new £38,700 salary threshold.
  • Those applying for a family/partner visa may want to do so ahead of the 11th April increase in the minimum income requirement to £29,000.

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For Employers

  • Assess your existing workforce and any incoming overseas hires to understand impacts across different visa categories.
  • For roles that may no longer meet visa requirements post-April, consider the merits of becoming an approved sponsor for the Scale-up route or other visa options.
  • Engage advisors and representatives to understand full implications and ensure compliance with the new rules when they take effect.

The UK’s immigration landscape is undergoing its biggest shakeup in years as the government seeks to deliver on its mandate to reduce net migration. While efforts to tackle exploitation and bring salaries in line with resident labour are laudable, the risk of labour shortages across various sectors is very real.

By being proactive and taking steps ahead of the implementation dates, individuals and businesses can hopefully mitigate impacts and adapt to the new realities of the UK’s immigration system in 2024 and beyond.

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